|December 29, 1935, in Arnold, Nebraska, Richard Adee was introduced early to
beekeeping by his father and four uncles. Teachers by trade, they stumbled onto beekeeping as a way to supplement teaching salaries during the depression years. In 1948 Adee's family moved to Kansas, where his father began beekeeping as a full-time occupation. Adee became intrigued with the bees, soaking up his family’s knowledge of what worked and what did not work in the keeping of honeybees.
In 1957 Adee and his brother, Stanley, purchased their first commercial operation in Bruce, South Dakota. They operated 1,600 bee colonies for honey production. In the summer the bees were kept in South Dakota and then were moved to Mississippi in the winter to rebuild and re-queen the hives for the next season. Tragically, Adee lost his brother in a truck accident in 1959. Determined to succeed for his brother, Adee continued on.
He married his high school sweetheart, Alice Bergstrom, in 1959. Together they worked to grow the company, branching into Cedar Rapids, Nebraska, in 1963 and into Clay Center, Kansas, in 1966. Adee expanded his South Dakota operation northward by purchasing a beekeeping operation in Roscoe in 1984 and westward with the purchases of additional operations in Kimball, Clark and Miller.
As the honey production side of the company grew, Adee saw opportunity for diversified growth as a paid pollinating company. Almond production, for instance, is directly linked to the quality of pollination the blossoms receive from honeybees. So today Adee sends nearly 160 semi truck loads of honeybees to the almond orchards of California each year.
Adee's beekeeping still follows a migratory pattern. Each summer the bees are in South Dakota and the Midwest for honey production. After the honey is harvested in the fall, the bees are moved to California for the almond pollination season. When that is completed, some of the honeybees are sent north to Washington State to pollinate apples, and the rest go to Texas and Mississippi to rebuild and re-queen over the spring months. Then they are returned home to the Midwest to begin the cycle again.
Today Adee Honey Farms is the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the country, with more than 80,000 bee colonies and nearly one-hundred employees. It operates facilities in five states and places bees in an additional five states for honey production or to provide pollination services. Adee’s two sons, Bret and Kelvin, his daughter, Marla, and three of his grandsons work for the company full-time.
When the industry faced challenges that threatened the survival of the industry, including market issues and treatment-resistant bee diseases, Adee sought solutions. To combat market issues, Adee went straight to the lawmakers in Washington, DC, sharing the problems and the need to make changes. After an uphill battle, he succeeded. Today the International Trade Commission works to uphold anti-dumping laws and to stop illegal imports, stabilizing the market.
Adee fought for funding for bee research at multiple U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) labs and universities. Working closely with state and federal officials as well as chemical companies, he won emergency approval for new treatments to protect honeybee colonies, giving beekeepers across the country a fighting chance to keep the bees alive.
Adee's impact in the honey industry has been felt locally, nationally and globally. He has led the way on many issues from state bee laws to international trade laws. His vast knowledge and honest demeanor have opened doors that otherwise may have remained closed to such a small industry.
He was a founding member of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). He served many years in various roles: as the organization’s president, vice president and executive board member. As the AHPA's Legislative Chairman, he worked tirelessly to promote industry issues to lawmakers in Washington.
Adee also served on the Executive Board of the American Beekeeping Federation, the South Dakota Beekeepers Advisory Board, Senator Pressler's Agriculture Advisory Board and the USDA Crop Production Review Board, to name a few.
Additionally, he traveled to Mexico on behalf of the U.S. Government to assess and offer his advice on control of the Africanized Honeybee. Participating in a People to People trip to China, he learned about the beekeeping and harvesting practices there and shared American practices. Serving on the National Honey Board, he oversaw marketing campaigns designed to raise honey consumption and increase sales, traveling abroad to open new markets and raise international interest in American honey.
Among the many honors he has received are the South Dakota Beekeeper of the Year, Southern States Beekeepers Appreciation Award, National Honey Board Service Award, Sioux Valley Board of Education Appreciation Award, Community Award from the City of Bruce for making Bruce "A Honey of a Place to Bee," the Pheasants Forever Landowner Conservationist Award, and the USDA ARS Certificate of Appreciation Award for Outstanding Service for the Crop Production Retrospective Review.
Adee has made a tremendous impact in his community since moving to Bruce in 1957. He became involved in community events, played on sports teams, and sponsored school and community teams. He donated land for a park and donated significant funds to provide a First Responders vehicle.
Adee served many years as a high school Sunday School teacher, youth group leader and board member for his local church, and served as chairman of the Building Finance Committee for the Brookings Wesleyan Church expansion. He served on the local school board for fifteen years, holding a variety of positions including president.
Adee also owns and manages several apartment complexes in Brookings, South Dakota, and he owns and farms cropland in the Bruce, South Dakota, area. Richard and Alice Adee recently celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. They deeply enjoy spending time with a family of three children and their spouses, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Adee remains actively involvedin the company, and he has no plans to retire!<o:p></o:p></p>